I grew up with a friend named Lora. She lived down the street from me and we went through school together. We became good friends in second grade a were friends through our senior year of high school, some years more closely than others. She had some sort of disease that made her grow wildly tall before her peers but retarded her growth around 5th or 6th grade. She then became one of the shortest people and ceased to grow. I defended/stood by her as an awkward giant in 2nd and 3rd grade when she towered over everyone, including the tallest viking boys. I defended/stood by her when she was a physically and socially awkward preteen. I stood by her when other friends came and went. Then we stopped talking.
She had this favorite book bag when we were in high school that totally overpowered her small frame. It was a big red, square LeSportsac. LeSportsac was very popular during our high school years. I don’t know what made me think of that red bag. When I did all sorts of memories came flooding back to me.
During high school we used to walk to school every day until one day she decided that she couldn’t wait for me. I was a few minutes late. I’m not habitually late but she was super timely–almost to a nervousness. Then she started to leave earlier (without me) and I started to leave later. We were lab partners in chemistry–disaster because of our height differences, arguing where the fill line actually was. Our projects took longer and sometimes had to be redone or were lower grades. Unacceptable to two type A personalities and who only got good grades. I suppose this was our first foray into true failure, in more ways than one. We couldn’t work out our differences and apply a consistent system. Of course, it was always the other one’s fault. We were part of a group of larger friends that was amorphous–the division into smaller groups always changed and no one thought twice about it. We took turns hanging out with one another. Eventually, Lora went with one group and didn’t leave it. It was a kind of natural split but one where there was a little tension between me and Lora. We still talked but our relationship gradually drew further and further apart. It confused me and no one could explain to me what was going on. Despite some nasty hearsay, I apologized profusely for being late and, eventually, about chemistry. I even repeatedly asked if I had done something else to offend her and she always said “no.” Lora certainly wasn’t talking, at least to me. I finally let it go because I did all I could do. I honestly don’t know what set her off until years later.
By this point we were both going to different schools. She went to a small college on the east coast and I went to the state university. I received a letter in the mail from her one day. I hadn’t talked to her or her friend Mari in a long time. I read the letter, in which Lora stated she felt bad for what had happened in high school and didn’t know what to do for a long time. Mari is the one who suggested she send a letter to me. In her letter she wrote that she was jealous of me because I had a lot of friends and was “popular” (her words, not mine) and she didn’t know what to do. She was sorry that she was so mean to me. I guess the last straw for her was when a group of Japanese girls stayed with the high school cheerleaders–she didn’t like all the time I spent with the foreign exchange students, even though it was for a short period before they moved down to California to spend a brief time with some students there. They were doing a Pacific Northwest kind of exchange student program where all the girls collectively stayed together, with individual girls going to different homes in the same high school. I can’t remember if it was a week or two that they stayed. Long enough to raise Lora’s ire and cement it. The letter was nicely written and when I was finished I breathed out and thought to myself, “That was really nice.” I also didn’t know what to do with it. We hadn’t talked in over 2 years at this point and she didn’t fit into my current life, at all. Sadly, I put the letter in the drawer and didn’t respond. I didn’t know what to say to someone I thought of as a friend but had turned very strongly against me. Someone who knew my likes, dislikes and secrets and occasionally thought to use them against me (I’m sensitive). Although I repeatedly thought about what to do and how to do it, because at this point her parents had moved away and I couldn’t call over there, I still didn’t do anything but chew the whole thing over in my mind. I didn’t know what to say to a person who while she was very close to me off and on over the years put a knife in my back repeatedly, especially in our senior year of high school. She often poisoned the well with her bitterness and lack of enthusiasm for life. That’s not to say that she wasn’t fun and didn’t have a place in my life–I had to face the fact that she was the friend whom I liked but not many of my other friends liked. Now she was a friend who repeatedly abused my friendship, rejected me and now she wanted back in or maybe she didn’t. She wasn’t clear and I realized she never had been. I did what I thought was self-preservation and I let the letter go. I’ve regretted it ever since.
I suppose I wanted to let her know that I was glad she sent the letter and it made me feel better. It was a relief to know that it wasn’t anything I did to her. I try hard to be a good friend even if it doesn’t always translate to that. Sometimes my reticence does me in. I couldn’t write her because she was no longer at that college address and years later she didn’t come up on any internet searches (oddly enough). It was actually Mari who contacted me on FaceBook years later to let me know that Lora had died of ovarian cancer. She didn’t know if I knew and hated the way she had to tell me. When reflecting on the timeline Mari provided (when Lora was diagnosed, etc.) I realized that my internet searches for Lora began the spring she was diagnosed. I would casually poke around and then give up but for some strange reason (which I now realize) she was very much on my mind.
This is one of those cases of how much does one put up with and where does one draw the line. I allowed the line to be drawn for me and was somewhat passive in its acceptance. Instead of taking the tardy olive branch I followed the status quo. I get to live with that but I do wish peace for Lora and always have.